As with most 'firsts' the origins of the humble wrist watch, a development of the ubiquitous pocket watch of the time, are keenly debated over...
Our preferred story concerns Alberto Santos-Dumont, the French/Brazilian aviation pioneer from the early part of the twentieth century. Amongst his numerous claims to fame, he is regarded as the father of aviation in his native Brasil and created the first practical dirigible (airship), flying one around the Eiffel Tower in 1901 and so winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize of 100,000 francs, half of which he gave to the poor of Paris.
Upon complaining to his friend Louis Cartier, the famous French watchmaker, that he needed a way to check his pocket watch without removing his hands from the controls, Cartier came up with what was basically the modern wrist watch, a watch head on a leather strap fastened by a small buckle.
Although Patak Philippe may have been first, this development gave Cartier the basis to create a popular model to sell and began the wristwatch’s dominance over the pocket watch.